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What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Roderick McMullen


What is Plantar Fasciitis? At its most basic level, Plantar Fasciitis is inflammation of the thick band of tissue, called plantar fascia, that runs along the bottom of your foot from the heel bone to your toes.

Stress on this area can cause small tears to the fascia, which then becomes inflamed as daily activity continues to stress the arch of the foot.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis Pain Like?

Damage to the fascia causes pain which is most frequently and excruciatingly felt in the morning with your first few steps of the day, and can also be felt during activity.

Our patients report Plantar Fasciitis symptoms ranging from a constant ache in the bottom of their foot, to stabbing pain in their heel that gets worse after walking or running.

Plantar Fasciitis is Very Common

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common conditions of the foot. While we don't know the exact number of people who have Plantar Fasciitis, studies estimate that over 1 million doctor visits are due to Plantar Fasciitis in the US.

1 in 10 people experience Plantar Fasciitis at one point in their lives. The likelihood is much higher among certain groups of people.

Mechanism of Plantar Fasciitis

Whenever you stand, walk, or run, your feet absorb the stress of your body weight and the impact of your activities. This stress, also called load, builds on the arch of your foot, leading to tiny tears in the plantar fascia. When the cycle of injury and inflammation goes unhealed, your body creates scar tissue.

Problems with Scar Tissue

Scar tissue formation is the body's natural response to injuries to repair the damage. However, this abnormal tissue has a few problems.

  • First, scar tissue takes up more space than healthy tissue. This can cause tension and discomfort in your foot.
  • Second, scar tissue has a non-linear shape. Just like a knot is the weakest spot in a length of rope, this messy structure makes the scar tissue weaker than healthy tissue, which is smooth and aligned.
  • Scar tissue build-up causes pain. Your body experiences that pain in your foot whenever it's overloaded.

The Vicious Cycle

Because scar tissue is weaker, it can withstand less load than healthy plantar fascia before it gets injured again.

As everyday activities put more stress on the weakened plantar fascia, the scar tissue continues to cause pain and dysfunction. Even more scar tissue forms, leading to a painful vicious cycle of tissue breakdown and weakening of your foot.

Who Are at Risk for Plantar Fasciitis?

While some cases of foot and heel pain seem to develop out of nowhere, clinicians have identified a few risk factors for developing Plantar Fasciitis.

  • Weight: People with a higher body mass index naturally put more stress on the plantar fascia, and are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Athletes: People who enjoy physical activities on foot like running, cycling, tennis, etc. can develop Plantar Fasciitis. For example, some estimates show that over 20% of runners may develop Plantar Fasciitis.
  • Sudden increase in activity levels: While being active is generally a healthy thing, sudden increase in exercises can trigger Plantar Fasciitis. Studies have found that people who have recently increased weight-bearing activities are  more likely to experience inflammation in their plantar fascia.
  • Occupational risks: Because many of us spend so much of our life at work, people who are on their feet a lot for work, especially on hard surfaces, are at higher risk developing Plantar Fasciitis. This includes nurses, teachers, policemen/women, mail carriers and more.

Due to these exacerbating factors, or just through day-to-day load, inflammation of the Plantar Fascia often becomes a chronic issue, with pain lasting for months or years. 

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is very painful. Luckily, though, because its basic causes are mechanical, it lends itself to effective, non-invasive, non-chemical treatment.

An ideal treatment for Plantar Fasciitis, at home or at physical therapy offices, will attack the root causes of pain. This involves three components:

  1. Breaking up painful scar tissue with targeted deep-tissue massage;
  2. Reducing load on the arch with a foot brace for Plantar Fasciitis; and
  3. Increasing the lower body’s ability to handle the stress of daily activity through strengthening exercises.

Incorporating this treatment methodology, proven in physical therapy offices, the Alleviate System for Plantar Fasciitis directly addresses and prevents Plantar Fasciitis pain.


Key Takeaways

Plantar Fasciitis is an overuse injury of the foot, caused by the load and stress of everyday activities.

Plantar Fasciitis is a very common condition that affects 1 in 10 people in the US, but people who are heavier or on their feet a lot are at higher risk.

The root cause of Plantar Fasciitis is the build-up of weaker, dysfunctional scar tissue. Effective treatment starts with addressing this scar tissue.

Plantar Fasciitis Solutions from Alleviate

Alleviate brings the gold standard of Plantar Fasciitis care from physical therapy offices to your home. Explore the full suite of our Plantar Fasciitis solutions.